Devotions By Jan

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Napoleon’s Banner

Scripture for Today: Psalm 60:4 “But for those who fear You, You have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.”

This elaborate banner was a flag proudly carried by Napoleon Bonaparte’s Imperial Guard foot soldiers in 1813.  It is either an original or a very early reproduction.  Banners like these were normally carried on staffs capped with a  gilt bronze eagle to symbolize divine authority.  Unfortunately, the eagle finial for this one was stolen in 1990 from the museum housing it.  So much for divine authority!  The foot soldier appointed to carry this banner had to be someone recognized for their bravery as he was an obvious target for the enemy.

Today’s verse has a banner that has been raised by our God and does indeed denote divine authority!  It is raised for those that fear and obey Him.  Unlike those who were experiencing discipline in this psalm, God’s  faithful ones could depend on Him to save and help with His powerful right hand (verse 5).  Those who fear, respect and obey the Lord are in a battle for His cause; the cause of truth, justice and righteousness.

God has raised this banner for me.  How amazing for this puny foot soldier to be part of His plan!  Because He has raised it for me,  I know I will be victorious over enemies!  But I do need to unfurl it.  It is my identifying mark.  I want to unfurl His banner with confidence, standing for the truth of who Jesus is and the veracity and authority of His Word.  Regardless of possible negative attention, I never want to be ashamed of my Lord (II Tim. 1:8).  After all, He is not ashamed of me as His banner over me is love (Song of Songs 2:4).

Thank you Lord, for the privilege of standing up for You!






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Dove Flower

Scripture for Today: Song of Songs 21:11-12 “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”

Happy first day of Spring!  I would love to celebrate the advent of this  season with this stunning flower.  However, this elegant plant is more often found in South America, Panama, Costa Rica and Trinidad.  The orchid has several names including Flying Egret, Holy Ghost or Dove orchid.  This beautiful white flower does look very much like a dove in flight with its fringed petals.

Today’s verse celebrates the exit of winter and the entrance of Spring.  The winter rains are finished and the brown drab earth erupts in lovely flowers.  Moods change and singing is heard as well as the cooing of doves.  Spring is a time of new beginnings, new growth and hope!  God shows His kindness to all men by sending rain, crops in their seasons, plenty of food and joy to our hearts (Acts 14:16-17).  To believers and scoffers alike, He is faithful in doing this as a testimony to who He is.

It would never even occur to me to doubt the coming of Spring, or the sun rising and setting, or the gravitational pull on our earth.  These are all things I tend to take for granted.  But that does not make them any less miraculous!  In recognizing His creative hand I can “join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”  He allows me to see His invisible qualities through what He has created (Rom.1:20).  My enjoyment of the seasonal changes is heightened when I realize the Source!  Rather than attributing nature to impersonal science, I can respond in praise to my Maker!

Thank you Lord for Spring!


Leaky Roof

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:15-16 “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.”

This happened!  After a month-long absence I woke up to the sound of raining in my closet!  It is not that it was such a strong storm but our flat roof would not drain properly.  I called on God first.  Wailed, if truth be told.  Then I called my husband, a roofer and our insurance company.  Thankfully, the drips did not reach my clothes.  But it was maddening to hear the slow and constant dripping well after the rain had finished.

Today’s verse describes a quarrelsome wife like that constant drip.  Each complaint from her lips and each nagging session can be as annoying as those continual drops of water.  Because the verse is speaking of a wife, one can assume the description comes from the husband.  In contrast to the Proverbs 31 wife who speaks with wisdom (Prov. 31:26), this wife provokes argument with what comes out of her mouth.  She speaks her mind without any self-restraint.  Any attempt at correcting her is as futile as restraining wind or grasping slippery oil.

Being quarrelsome can seem quite reasonable and even expected after a hard day.  When taking care of the needs of others means lost sleep or when the toilet backs up, a bit of nasty temper seems just the thing to blow off steam.  When pressure builds, it is often on those closest to me that I unload.  The danger for me is that being contentious can too easily become a habit.  I would much rather be characterized by a quiet gentle spirit, making me consistently approachable!

Lord, keep me sweet and peaceable despite my circumstances.


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Bread Box

Scripture for Today:  Job 23:12 “I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.”

This ornate bread box served such a humble purpose, keeping rats and pests from entering and munching its contents.  It is called a “panetière” and it comes from Arles, France.  It now graces a corner of a museum in Massachusetts.  When it was used in the 18th century, it hung on the wall and added to the elegance of a room.  The rich walnut wood and the carving elevated something that was a daily necessity into a treasure!

Today’s verse gives a glimpse of the closeness and intimacy Job enjoyed with the Lord.  Job was an upright man who carefully obeyed and feared God.  But even more than that Job hung on God’s every word.  To Job, the words of God’s mouth were not only a daily necessity like bread, but a treasure!  Job had the same regard for God’s decrees as David had years later when he said they were more precious than gold (Psalm 19:10).

I want to esteem God’s Word as just this precious!  I do not want it to be just ornamental but something I use daily.  His Word is a treasure because in keeping it, “there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:11)  No other book on earth is as true, practical, or uplifting!  And His Word will never pass away as it is eternal (Matt. 24:35).  What other book could ever make that claim?  But I can be cavalier about this treasure, forgetting its Author and its import.  I have been spoiled by its ready availability and sometimes desensitized by familiarity.

Lord, don’t let me lose the wonder and awe of what I hold in my hands!

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Glass Harmonica

Scripture for Today:Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope.” 

Who hasn’t rubbed their fingers around the rim of a crystal wine glass to produce that ringing sound?  That is the principle behind this glass harmonica, made of a series of glass bowls or goblets in varying sizes spinning  on a single shaft.  The haunting ethereal sound of the notes are produced by moistened fingers and the friction they create.  The pressure of the fingers can change the volume and duration of a note.  The “incomparably sweet” sound of the glass harmonica is really due to friction and pressure.

Paul makes an incredible statement in today’s verse.  He can glory or revel in his sufferings because he understands what it will develop in him!  Perseverance, character and hope are those harmonious notes his sufferings will produce.  But these characteristics do not show themselves except through the friction and pressure of suffering.  He knows and is confident of this positive outcome, affirming that this hope is sure.  This hope will not ever put him to shame because of the love that God has poured out into his heart (verse 5).

How amazing it is that in the middle of suffering Paul can keenly feel God’s love for him!  When things go wrong and I am hurting, I am tempted to think that God may not love me quite so much.  If He really loved me would He make me go through this?  Couldn’t I just have that perseverance, character and hope without all that suffering?  I have to trust that He knows what He is doing.  His love never changes and He is making me more like Him!

Lord, help me never to doubt your love for me.

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Ruby Red

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 20:15. “Gold there is and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.”

This is called the “Carmen Lucia ruby” and has been on display at the Smithsonian Museum since 2004.  It was mined in 1930 in Burma, known for the most vibrant rubies in the world.  This 23 carat-faceted stone was in the collection of Carmen Lucia, purchased for her by her loving husband in anticipation of her recovery from cancer.  Sadly, she died and her husband donated it to the museum to honor her memory.  Of course this ruby is valuable but what makes it stand out even more is the story behind it.

As beautiful and rare as some rubies are, there is something that is described in today’s verse as a “rare jewel;” lips that speak knowledge.  We value gold and rubies for their beauty, rarity and worth.  Yet, lips that speak knowledge are even more rare and beautiful.  Knowing what to say and when to say it is invaluable!  It is the Lord that gives wisdom and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:6)  He is the source and it is when we fear, respect and show the awe due Him that we can possess this rare jewel. (Prov. 1:7)

I enjoy beautiful gems and jewelry, especially when the light catches them just right.  But there is nothing so off-putting as a woman bedecked in gold and rubies that opens her mouth and spoils the effect!  Knowledge, wisdom and understanding attract others.  More than a recitation of factual information, the knowledge and wisdom He gives allows me to use the right words to build up others (Eph. 4:29) benefitting those who listen.  His knowledge and wisdom coming out of my mouth will point others to Him.

Lord, make my lips a rare jewel today!


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Hex Signs

Scripture for Today: II Thessalonians 3:2-3  “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

I had heard about hex signs but had never seen them in use.  Recently, we drove through the Pennsylvania countryside and saw a billboard advertising them.  They are put on barns or outbuildings and were originally meant to ward off evil.  They typically have a design that is circular and have a wheel or rosette in the middle.  They can be simple or elaborate and in modern times are used more for decoration than for any other purpose.

In today’s verse Paul asks the church members in Thessalonica to pray that he and his co-workers are delivered from wicked and evil people.  In proclaiming the Gospel Paul would encounter opposition from others.  More than that, he would encounter opposition from the evil one, meaning Satan. But in the same breath, Paul declares God’s faithfulness in giving strength and protection, reassuring the church that the same is true for them.

I am reassured as well in reading this verse.  I live in such an evil-ridden world but my soul is safe in His hands.  He always keeps His word and He promises that His strength is available.  His protection is real and He will not allow evil to gain the upper hand with me!  Regardless of how weak I may feel in the presence of evil, He will strengthen my faith and my resolve to resist (James 4:7).  He is faithful!  I know in whom I have placed my confidence.  It is He that is able to keep the soul that I have committed to Him until the very end (II Tim. 1:12).

Lord, help me be confident of Your protection.